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Sunday 29 January 2023 Dublin: 10°C
Alamy Stock Photo Cabinet was told today that the primary challenge remains the constraint on the supply of suitable accommodation for people arriving here.
# ukraine response
Urgent housing: Fair Deal rule change to allow vacant houses be rented will free up 8,000 units
Government ramp up plans to deliver more housing as 18,600 Ukrainians are now in Ireland.

CHANGES TO THE Fair Deal rules that could free up to 8,000 homes for rental are under consideration as part of the Government’s response to house Ukrainian refugees. 

Housing Minister Darragh O’Brien told Cabinet today that he plans to accelerate the reform of the Nursing Home Support Scheme known as the Fair Deal Scheme, so that people can rent their unused, vacant homes without facing a financial penalty. 

The Fair Deal Scheme is a scheme of financial support for people who require long-term nursing home care in Ireland. It is designed to give financial assistance to those who require full-time nursing care, regardless of their financial circumstances. 

Under the current rules, 80% of rental income for a vacant home under the scheme is taken by the Government to pay towards the cost of a person’s nursing home care.

This rule change would allow the revenue to be kept by the homeowner.

The properties for rent under the scheme will not be limited to Ukrainian refugees, a Government source has said. 

They said the initiative is part of a wider rental market measure that is aimed at alleviating overall pressure in the market. 

While no timeline has been confirmed for the change, it is hoped the new measures could be fast-tracked. 

Since 25 February, 18,600 Ukrainians have arrived in the State.

Of the Ukrainian arrivals to date, approximately two-thirds are female, and one third are male. Approximately one-third of the arrivals are minors under the age of 18.

Cabinet was told today that the primary challenge remains the constraint on the supply of suitable accommodation for people arriving here.

“There is a risk to current capacity in short-term, including emergency accommodation,” said a Government spokesperson. 

It is understood the Department of Housing, Local Government and Heritage is urgently developing detailed proposals to help address the anticipated needs that will arise in the medium to longer term, including a delivery structure and options for accommodation.

580 arriving per day 

The current rolling 7-day average of arrivals is running at 580 per day and the proportion of those seeking accommodation has risen to 81% compared to 74% a week before.

By Easter weekend, the forecasted number of arrivals to Ireland is in the range 26,000 to 32,000. Beyond that, forecasting total number of arrivals is challenging, a Government spokesperson said. 

In light of the challenges coming down the line, Cabinet agreed that longer term options for providing suitable accommodation and housing for Ukrainians need to be examined.

These measures include the holding of an emergency summit of key stakeholders in the public and private sector, such as the construction industry and estate agents, which will be held next week to ensure an all of society response.

A fully funded voids programme to refurbish and re-let some 2,500 vacant Local Authority units will also be examined. In the past two years, approximately 6,000 units were brought back into use. 

Restricting short-term lets

Options are also being explored on restricting short-term lettings of second or additional private homes in cities and large towns, although letting of individual rooms in private homes would remain unrestricted.

There will also be a national ‘Call for Buildings’ to identify empty units for rapid refurbishment for emergency accommodation and potentially as permanent housing in the long-term. There will also be measures to explore inactivated planning permissions and potential vacant sites. 

The Government also plans to accelerate building of new homes using existing exemptions and emergency provisions in the Planning Act to minimise planning constraints and activate planning permissions, including on zoned or unzoned lands.

A Government spokesperson said the overall impact on housing will become clearer as the numbers of Ukrainian people involved and their potential length of stay emerges.

“Government will protect Housing for All at its current pace of delivery to the greatest extent possible,” he said. 

By 3 April, 10,885 Ukrainian arrivals have sought accommodation through international protection.

4,000 hotel rooms housing refugees

With nearly 4,000 rooms with 9,800 serviced accommodation beds being in use to house Ukrainians, there are concerns about capacity come the summer months when hotel rooms are pre-booked already. 

Therefore, increasing capacity is needed, with work ongoing to draw-down the pledges of accommodation made by the public to the Red Cross.

To date a total of 20,719 offers have been pledged.

Notwithstanding the high level of pledges, a Government spokesperson said it is unlikely some properties will be suitable for use, with expectations that only 40-50% of pledged accommodation will be used. 

The Millstreet Arena which will have capacity for 400+ persons is on target for use from 18 April and it is estimated a total of 1,800 Local Authority emergency beds could potentially be made available.

Tented emergency accommodation at Gormanstown Camp is ready for use, should the need arise. 

While Dublin Airport is still the main entry point and continues to see high numbers, plans are being finalised to move the reception facility from the airport to the Citywest complex. 

Due to the high volumes of arrivals, people arriving will be transferred by bus from Dublin Airport directly to CityWest, though no timeline for the new reception has been confirmed. 

The Government is also understood to be in negotiations to use the Citywest hotel to house Ukrainian refugees for up to two years.

Additional facilities are being put in place in Rosslare Port to cope with increased numbers of arrivals there and to assist with accessing the necessary supports.

The Department of Social Protection has so far issued 17,567 people with PPS numbers, with the Department of Education advising that the most recent figures available, as of 4 April, show that a total of 2,038 students have enrolled in schools across all 26 counties.

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